Official Site of Speaker, Historian and Author Sean Munger


Interiors: Bedroom in Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany, 1886.

Admittedly, this photo from the 19th century looks pretty similar to another “Interiors” post I did recently, showcasing a suite in San Simeon (“Hearst Castle”) in California. The extreme ostentatious nature of the décor is similar, as well as the neo-Gothic excess–note the various religious paintings on the paneled walls and, if you can see it, the Madonna just above the bed which is evocative of Holbein. This is one of the numerous bedrooms in Neuschwanstein Castle, which sits on a forested mountaintop in Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, in what is now Germany. If you aren’t familiar with Neuschwanstein, you probably have seen its likeness more often than you think. It’s the model for the design of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland which itself has been incorporated into the Disney corporate logo over the years. Neuschwanstein was constructed as a retreat for King Ludwig II of Bavaria and also as a salute to Ludwig’s favorite composer, Richard Wagner. The cornerstone was laid in September 1869 and was still unfinished when he died in 1886, which is also the year in which this photo, a photochrom, was taken.

This room is called, I believe, the “Tristan story bedroom” after one of the Germanic folklore figures that fascinated Wagner, and about whom he wrote his opera Tristan und Isolde. This room perfectly captures the artistic vision of Neuschwanstein as a whole. The castle was not intended to look like a real medieval castle–although real fortifications did once exist in the Middle Ages on the same site–but rather kind of a 19th century Romanticist interpretation of the past with a heavy stylistic gloss. It’s no accident that many of Disney’s fairy tales, like Sleeping Beauty, come from this same cultural place; many are modern reimaginings of old medieval and Renaissance-era stories, some with distinctly Germanic roots. Neuschwanstein itself was kind of a 19th century Disneyland. Ludwig, who spent only 11 nights in the castle, never intended to open it to the public, but almost immediately after his death it became a tourist attraction. Honestly, even despite its remoteness, who wouldn’t want to come see this? Even today Neuschwanstein remains one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s even a trope in the video game Civilization by Sid Meier, where a player can build Neuschwanstein Castle as one of the “wonders” for extra points.

This picture dates from 1886. I don’t know if the Tristan bedroom still looks like this, but my guess is it’s pretty close. Who could improve on this design? I certainly hope the sheets have been changed since 1886, though.

This photo is in the public domain.

1 Comment

  1. What a delight to see this photograph — I’ve stood in that very room and marveled at it all. The whole place is amazing and definitely worth the trip. But it’s perched on the top of a very high mountain — easier to ride up than to walk up!

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